Breeders’ Cup report on fatal injury at BC Classic cites pre-existing conditions

Jan. 15 (UPI) — The fatal injury sustained by Mongolian Groom in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic resulted from pre-existing conditions in both hind legs which escaped notice despite extensive new safety protocols, according to a report released Wednesday by Breeders’ Cup’s Board of Directors.

The report, compiled by Dr. Larry Bramlage, a prominent veterinarian based in Lexington, Ky., said more can be done to prevent future injuries.

Mongolian Groom, after competing for the lead in the weekend’s featured race, broke down early in the stretch run and was transported to the on-track medical facility, where the decision was made to euthanize him.

Bramlage noted Mongolian Groom’s was the only injury sustained by any of the 229 horses that competed in the two-day event at Santa Anita.

“It is hard to fault a process that had a 99.6 percent accuracy rate,” Bramlage said, “but there were opportunities to remove Mongolian Groom from competition that were missed due to time constraints or process deficiencies that could be made more prominent.”

Investigation, he said, found Mongolian Groom had minute stress fractures in both hind legs — injuries so small and progressive that they escaped detection. During the race, he said, “The left hind fracture propagated, resulting in the chain of events, like dominoes falling, that created the fatal injury.

“There is no evidence that the horse’s injury was ignored or covered up,” Bramlage said.

He also said the investigation found no evidence that drug use was involved in the injuries.

Bramlage outlined six suggested improvements, centering on enhanced prerace inspection of horses.

Fred W. Hertrich III, chairman of the Breeders’ Cup board, said the organization “is committed to taking all actions to ensure our equine and human athletes compete under the safest and most transparent conditions possible.”

Hertrich said Breeders’ Cup will review the recommendations with input from the new Thoroughbred Safety Coalition with an eye toward adopting changes before the next Breeders’ Cup World Championships, Nov. 6-7 at Keeneland.